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Deerhoof - Mountain Moves (Joyful Noise Recordings)

Deerhoof - Mountain Moves
21 September 2017

For a band to remain so effortlessly and gleefully inventive fourteen albums into their career is a merit of its own. Drummer Greg Saunier once described the average Deerhoof fan as a “thrill seeker,” and it would be commendable knowledge of one’s audience, were it not the case that they themselves have been begetting that audience for 20+ years. A new album from the noisily clever foursome evokes a feeling of being transported back to elementary school, having racked up enough gold stars (or whatever, choose your own metric) to blindly select a prize from the teacher’s bag of goodies. Back then, the worst you could walk away with was a football-shaped eraser, which was still pretty awesome. Now imagine getting to look inside that bag to collect the entire spread. Imagine Mountain Moves.

Press releases have stated that this album is a direct reaction to the current political climate; in case of any confusion, see opening number “Slow Motion Detonation,” as its title offers up possibly the most apt poetry to describe our government – and to think that this song was recorded prior to Trump’s U.N. speech! Oy gevalt… For the first time ever, the band is joined by guest musicians, and for a whopping one half of the album, at that. The collaborative decisions show no signs of creative waning; no compromises are made in order to cater to the guest spots. Everyone new to the party simply has the great and rare honor of having contributed to a Deerhoof album. They invest in the ethos of power in numbers, and the legion that makes up their guest list is perfunctorily present to raise a formidable racket in the face of power trips and bigotry. If you’re willing – in a profoundly strange but fun way, Mountain Moves is the kind of album America needs now to begin the healing process, if that’s at all feasible.

Galvanization aside, the widespread teamwork gifts us some dazzling vocal duets fans would not have dreamed of otherwise. Satomi Matsuzaki pairs with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner on “I Will Spite Survive,” an upbeat rocker about “outliv[ing] your executioners” replete with wonderfully distorted power chords, a shimmering legato guitar post-chorus, and a triumphant key change to toast the long night, where “she” — presumably the “city” — will dance all night long. Awkwafina goes for the throat in “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You,” militant as all hell. Through gritted teeth she vociferates an indictment of Bill Clinton’s infamously heinous Crime Bill. Matsuzaki later appears to calm the waters by echoing a message of withstanding from the mass incarcerated: “I’ve been in your cage 400 days/So why would I listen when you say/Worry, worry, baby.” Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier is no stranger to calling out injustices in song, so her rhetorical, righteous, ad hominem “coward” mockery feels at home in “Come Down Here and Say That,” despite her typical philosophical angle. Her voice entwined with Matsuzaki’s in the ethereal “crackerjack dreamer” movement ranks among the album’s highlights.

Deerhoof’s reinforcements aid in other ways, most notably on the title track, which gets rounded out with deliriously funky saxophone accompaniment from Matana Roberts, giving it a particular flare that has reported absent in years past. The quartet’s range is so diverse and stimulated that they warmly embrace the new sonic activity; but don’t be quick to forget their undecorated strengths — there’s plenty of sonic activity of their own to distribute. “Begin Countdown” takes a page from the previous record’s “Kafe Mania!” by enacting a similar guitar-explode-guitar section where the band trades off and on an eked-out guitar lick in exchange for a brief speaker-melting full band blitz. They don’t just flirt with dub writing, they give it the eye during a cocktail bar’s last call in “Con Sordido” and “Mountain Moves.” By no means are we given a dosage of a Breakup Song amount of synths, but this album does feature a comfortable amount of modular work accompanying the band in studio. “Palace of the Governors” could fitfully score a Sergio Leone film in lieu of Ennio Morricone — and it’s in this track that Matsuzaki does relinquish a fair bit of respite amid a slew of defensive maneuvers with its only sung line: “You won’t live in this house… forever.” Doubly, she echoes the words of Bob Marley in its final moment in a cover of “Small Axe”: “Whosoever diggeth a pit shall fall in it.” Amen. Deerhoof, who’ve blessed listeners time and time again with their combustive, innovative fervor have done so once more, this time performing a civic duty to boot.

You may purchase the record here.